The Philadelphia Museum of Art Announces Acquisition of 3,000 Works by Paul Strand

Paul Strand (American, 1890 - 1976) Hacienda, Saltillo, Mexico (1932) Platinum print Purchase from the Aperture Foundation

The Philadelphia Museum of Art today announced that it has acquired, through several gifts and a purchase agreement with the Aperture Foundation, the core collection of photographs by Paul Strand, one of the pre-eminent photographers of the 20th century. Through the generosity of philanthropists Lynne and Harold Honickman, Marjorie and Jeffrey Honickman, and H.F. “Gerry” and Marguerite Lenfest, the Museum has received as partial and promised gifts 1422 images from The Paul Strand Archive at the Aperture Foundation, as well as 566 master prints from Strand’s negatives by the artist Richard Benson. The Museum has also entered into an agreement with the Aperture Foundation to purchase an additional 1276 photographs. As a whole, this acquisition comprises more than 3000 prints and lantern slides, including the finest examples of every image in the Archive. Together with other photographs by Strand already owned by the Museum, this acquisition makes the Philadelphia Museum of Art the world’s most important repository for the study of his work.

All of the photographs and lantern slides are now housed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art where they are being studied in preparation for a major retrospective devoted to the artist that is scheduled for 2014.

Timothy Rub, the George D. Widener Director and Chief Executive Officer, stated: “The Paul Strand Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art will rank among the finest and most significant groups of works by key figures in the history of photography held by any museum in this country. As the definitive collection of one of the 20th century’s greatest photographers, it will also be a critical component of the Museum’s internationally distinguished holdings of modern art, which include the renowned Louise and Walter Arensberg and A. E. Gallatin collections. Given the significance of Strand’s achievement as an artist it will, I believe, become a cornerstone of the Museum’s collections, much like our extensive holdings of works by Marcel Duchamp and Thomas Eakins.

“This is a major achievement,” Mr. Rub went on to say. “We are exceptionally grateful to the dedicated support of our enlightened donors, the Honickmans and the Lenfests, who recognized the value of their gifts to the Museum’s mission and to the study of the history of photography and worked together to help us strengthen the Museum’s collection. Our longstanding relationship with the Aperture Foundation, in particular through the work of the late Michael E. Hoffman, who formed the Strand archive at Aperture and served for many years as the Museum’s Adjunct Curator of Photographs, has enabled us to create a repository of the work of this artist that will chronicle his seminal contributions to the development of modern art and will advance the study of his remarkable body of work and prominent place in the history of photography.”

Paul Strand (American, 1890 – 1976) Railroad Sidings, New York (1915) Platinum print Promised gift of Lynne and Harold Honickman

Celso Gonzalez-Falla, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Aperture Foundation, commented on the placement of this extraordinary collection. “Given Aperture’s long association with Strand and the commitment that the Philadelphia Museum of Art has made to the development of its world-renowned holdings of photography, it is an ideal place for these works. This is true not simply because of the Museum’s long association with Aperture, but also because this gift and purchase, when added to the Museum’s existing collection of more than 600 exceptional works by Strand, provides a full picture of his remarkable achievement, adding strength to strength and creating a true and enduring public benefit. We salute the vision and perspicacity of Peter MacGill of Pace/MacGill Gallery, who has worked closely with Aperture to ensure that this important collection would find a permanent home in a great museum.”

The portion of The Paul Strand Archive that the Museum has made a commitment to purchase from the Aperture Foundation includes many remarkable photographs. Among them are two of Strand’s rare gum bichromate prints, which date to the earliest years of his career. Also included are masterpiece platinum and silver portraits of his first wife, Rebecca Salsbury, and several other key portraits of his circle in the 1910s and 1920s, including his father Jacob, painter John Marin, and fellow photographer Kurt Baasch; unique prints such as a 1922 image of Constantin Brancusi’s sculpture Mlle. Pogany and a solarized portrait of the architect Henry Churchill (1922); major examples of his nature and machine abstractions, including the unique Rock, Georgetown, Maine (1927) and a rare pair of vintage platinum and silver prints of Fern, New England (1928); and superb prints from his early sojourns to the Gaspé Peninsula, the Southwest, and Mexico.

“Combined with the Museum’s existing holdings, this acquisition will give the Museum an unrivaled collection of Strand’s critical early work and his photographs of the Southwest and Mexico, all recognized as high points of his career,” commented Peter Barberie, the Museum’s Brodsky Curator of Photographs. “Added to the recent gifts to the Museum from the Honickmans and Lenfests, the acquisition will also enable us to assemble nearly complete sets of vintage prints from all of Strand’s later projects, beginning with his prized New England photographs of the 1940s and running through the final series he made in the garden of his home in Orgeval, France.”

The Paul Strand Collection will permit the study of Strand’s career with prints from the majority of his negatives, including most known variants and croppings of individual images. It will, moreover, enable the Museum to keep together several prints made from a single negative using different processes, at different times, and with different papers. As such, The Paul Strand Collection will be an essential resource for any scholar of 20th-century photography. In addition to 2,768 prints and lantern slides by Strand himself, the acquisition includes the gift of 566 gelatin silver and platinum prints from Strand’s negatives by the eminent American photographer Richard Benson, made for Aperture in the 1980s. Benson has printed Strand’s negatives since the early 1970s, when he worked closely with the artist. As part of its ongoing publishing initiatives, the Aperture Foundation will prepare a Paul Strand catalogue raisonne in cooperation with the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

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Urban Art and Antiques first published in 2007. If you are interested in becoming a contributor, let us know. Email urbanartantiques (at) gmail.com

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